It seems everyone this legislative session agrees there is a need for ethics reform, but there is strong disagreement on what the governor calls the foundation of ethics reform.
Governor Nixon sees campaign contribution limits as the key to any ethics reform.
“We need to get to the serious matters. The problem we have is the money in politics, significant money in politics. We have to have contribution limits,” Nixon says.
“The secondary problem we have is this revolving door that lets people leave public service and immediately go to work for someone they were regulating the minute before,” Nixon says. “The third problem we have is a lack of transparency in the current system. When you can move money around and nobody knows where it goes and where it comes from and it can go through this labyrinth of committees and it’s impossible to trace, then you’re never going to get to the bottom of serious ethics reform.”
Nixon says that ethics reform legislation can encompass a wide range of ideas, but that any true reform measure must include a reinstatement of campaign contribution limits, provisions to keep lawmakers from leaving office and immediately working for those they once regulated and creation of additional transparency for donations and gifts.
Nixon’s call for campaign contribution limits is backed by fellow Democrat, House Minority Leader Paul LeVota (D-Independence).
“What the people of Missouri want us to do is have comprehensive ethics reform and they want us to have those limits,” says LeVota who adds that he believes an ethics package with contribution limits could muster enough support to gain the 82 votes needed to pass the House. He says the big question in the House is whether Republican leaders allow a vote on contribution limits.
Nixon and LeVota get agreement with Senate Leader Charlie Shields, a St. Joseph Republican, on restricting the employment lawmakers can seek after leaving office and creating greater transparency provisions. Shields doesn’t agree with their call for campaign contribution limits.
“With limits, people find new and creative ways to get money into campaigns without any transparency,” Shields says. “I have just seen no indication that that solves any problem and I’ve not seen any indication that contribution limits keep money out of politics.”
Shields’ stance is echoed by other Republican leaders in the Senate. They argue that contribution limits are often shredded and that the public is better served not by limits, but by clear reporting of who is donating and how much they are giving.
So, though Nixon might consider campaign contribution limits crucial to ethics reform, even calling it the foundation upon which ethics reform is built, the Senate stands opposed to that aspect of ethics reform.
Brent Martin reports [:60]